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Training Camp Preview Report: Giants Offense

Posted Jul 26, 2016

Giants.com previews the Giants' offense ahead of 2016 Training Camp:

By almost any standard, the New York Giants had a very effective offense last season. They finished 8th in the league in yards per game (372) and 6th in points (26.2). They scored fewer than 20 points in a game just three times, including 17 points against the Vikings in a game in which they were without Odell Beckham Jr.

The Giants’ success on that side of the ball was one of the reasons the team promoted offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo to head coach. It wasn’t long thereafter that Mike Sullivan was named offensive coordinator.

Sullivan was the quarterbacks coach last season (as well as 2010-2011) and served as offensive coordinator for the Buccaneers in 2012 and 2013.  Last year was his first season working in a west coast offense, but it didn’t take long to click with the architect of the offense, Ben McAdoo.

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“It’s been a tremendous experience,” Sullivan said. “He’s a tremendous teacher, a great leader and very detailed in his preparation and has made it very easy for the staff and players to adopt this scheme that we try to tweak and vary so that it fits our personnel. It’s been a very exciting experience, and I’m looking forward to training camp.”

In Year Three, McAdoo, Sullivan and Eli Manning anticipate the continuing evolution of the offense.

“We went through an entire installation through phase two (of the offseason program), which is where we’re limited due to what we can do out on the field,” Sullivan said. “Then we went through the entire installation again through OTA’s and then through the entire installation again in minicamp.”

Training camp serves to reinforce what was presented in the OTA’s.

“It’s been a few weeks, so we’ll have to revisit and start back at square one,” Sullivan said. “As the old saying goes, ‘repetition is the mother of skill’, so the more we can continue to repeat, repeat, repeat and then, of course, make the corrections and not make the same corrections, then we’ll be in great shape.”

The personnel on the offense isn’t expected to change much from last year, either. With Manning, Rashad Jennings, Odell Beckham Jr., the entire offensive line and both Will Tye and Larry Donnell all returning, the only new starters from last season could be at fullback and wide receiver.

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At fullback, the Giants could look to last year’s starter, Nikita Whitlock, or see if veteran Will Johnson can fill that role.

The Giants hope Victor Cruz can get back onto the field and practice consistently as the team’s second wide receiver. Behind him are a number of young wide receivers Sullivan sees developing.

“You have some guys, certainly (Geremy) Davis in his second year,” Sullivan said. “Myles White returns with us, Tavarres King, and some of the young men we brought in, Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis. A bunch of young guys who’ve been hungry, they’ve come in and had the opportunity to get a ton of reps. They play all the positions. We don’t just pigeon-hole a guy at x or z, we move them all around so they can be versatile enough to be plugged-in whenever they get an opportunity. We’re excited about where they’re headed and look forward to seeing how they do against some live competition.”

All those players will have the chance to compete in training camp to see if they can help bring the offense to a new level.

Even though the offense was strong last year, there are still many areas where Sullivan hopes to see significant improvement. One is running the football. It’s hard to see where the running game is in the spring with physical contact and pads being prohibited. Training camp allows the coaches to get a better feel for both the running backs and the offensive line.

“I think you find out the majority of the information here in training camp, with the pads in the pre-season games,” Sullivan explained. “In the spring, we certainly worked on things from an assignment standpoint, from a detail standpoint, the footwork, the alignments, the initial reads. We really focused on things that we felt we were good at, things we felt we needed to improve upon. Other things that weren’t quite who we were, we put to the back burner. We have a lot of optimism where we’re headed. It’s a point of emphasis. We want to run the ball and we’re going to run the ball and see where it goes with pads on.”

Last season the Giants finished 18th in the NFL in yards per carry (4.0) and rushing yards per game (100.6). The rushing attack did improve towards the end of the year, something the team hopes will continue into 2016.

Running the football more effectively will also serve to help improve the Giants in two specific areas they struggled with last season: on third down and in the green zone.

“The green zone, finishing 29th in the NFL, and then on third down, finishing 22nd in the NFL,” Sullivan said. “We have got to do a better job being able to sustain drives, being able to put points on the board, being able to score touchdowns, eliminating the turnovers. Some of our critical errors not only gave the defense the ball but prevented us from scoring points because we weren’t able to even at least kick the field goal, so those are two major areas.”

Running the ball better on first and second down would create far more third and short situations, which are much easier to convert than third and eight or more yards.

When the Giants are in the green zone, it makes it tougher to throw the ball due to the shortened field. Running the ball successfully in those situations is a necessity.

The Giants protected the ball and their quarterback fairly well last year. The Giants allowed only 27 sacks, tied with the Cardinals, Bucs and Redskins for fourth-fewest in the league. The offensive line was helped by Manning’s quick decision making. According to Pro Football Focus, Manning had the ball in the pocket an average of 2.48 seconds per drop back, good for sixth-fastest in the league.

The Giants gave the ball away only 21 times last season. Manning’s 14 interceptions tied for the second-fewest in his career. No statistic has a bigger impact on winning and losing than turnovers, so this is an area the Giants would like to see improvement in as well. Running the ball better can keep the volume of pass attempts down, which could help in this area as well.

With the always reliable Manning at the helm, and one of the best wide receivers in football in Beckham, improvements in small areas will go a long way to vaulting the Giants into the top three offenses in the NFL. Mike Sullivan and Ben McAdoo will try to get them there.